La Moraleja is the point of the story, the moral of a kid’s fable. The philosophy of this new paladar located in the ample backyard of a Vedado mansion is “Dreaming is free, so dream on, you’re at La Moraleja, a dream come true.” The dream opened in February 2011.
The backyard is spacious and encompasses an indoor air-conditioned part split from the main garden by a long glass wall, and several tables outside underneath a huge mango tree around which the terrace has been constructed. This is a comfortable and discrete outdoor location in a solidly middle-class neighbourhood. The decoration is minimal rather than minimalist–one large photo and a fish tank inside is about it. The atmosphere is traditional with old 50’s music (Benny Moré, Buena Vista Social Club and jazz), being the preferred fare when a live jazz band is not on tap. This is a team effort from Olga Lidia and Jorge Luis who own the house and a friend of theirs, Beddy Blanco. Olga Lidia is in charge of client service–attractive, polished, her 15 years working for the Spanish Meliá chain in Havana in customer relation’s show. Jorge and Beddy worked in some of the best Cuban restaurants and clubs (Le Select, Comodoro, Macumba). This is their chance to take their experience and put it to use for themselves. Jorge did much of the work renovating the place; Beddy Blanco is their experienced chef. The menu is a mixture between typical Cuban Creole food and some international dishes. I would emphasize the brassiere; the outside parrilla (grill) is large and takes care of the preparation of good quality meat and fish. I also like the shrimp, seviche and salads. Good but not great food; perhaps, it is a question of taste since a few people I know have felt let down, which surprises me since the place seems busy with a mostly Spanish clientele who are not known for accepting sub-par offerings. I came away with mixed feelings for this place. Despite the fact that it is a dream come true, the dream seems to be about working for yourself than a real passion for food. The team is undoubtedly professional and knows what they are doing, and it is a lovely space, yet it almost seems like hollow calories.
The open space at La Moraleja
This paladar located in Vedado has a couple of problems: it tends to be pricey and the service is inconsistent (sometimes efficient and friendly, and at other times slow and grumpy). Nevertheless the food is consistently good, with a variety of grilled meats, vegetables, and seafood. But the most attractive part of La Moraleja, in my view, is its open space filled with elegantly displayed tables, subtle lighting at night, and a big trellis that provides shade during the day and that is covered with a beautiful vine of purple flowers. That space alone makes me what to come back.